Crossing Delancey tells the story of a Jewish grandmother (Bubbie), herself a widow for fourteen years, who is anxious that her beloved granddaughter, Izzy, should not suffer the loneliness she does. Bubbie’s solution is to hire a matchmaker to provide a nice Jewish boy for Izzy to marry. The trouble is, Izzy considers herself a modern girl who has options and doesn’t need to resort to the old-fashioned ways.
The play is titled after a major thoroughfare running through a New York neighbourhood on the traditionally Jewish Lower Eastside and Uptown Manhattan.
For decades, life in the lower East Side preserved the religious and cultural traditions of Jews-the liturgical life of synagogues, the ethnic food, the Yiddish language, and courtship and marriage. Thus to cross Delancey Street heading south into the old neighbourhood was to enter into an immigrant world that belonged to the past.
On the other hand, to cross Delancey northbound was to move into a different cultural zone: Uptown Manhattan. Here was the heart of “America” shaped by liberated values, universities, and media.
The stage setting of the play reproduces and spans this cultural divide. Bubbie’s apartment is down in the old neighbourhood , where she cooks ethnic foods, tells the old stories, and urges her granddaughter, Izzy to embrace traditional fulfillments of home and husband. In contrast, Izzy’s bookstore is on the other side of Delancey, miles away in Upper Manhattan. Here Izzy dreams of romance with a famous non-Jewish writer while returning each evening to her empty apartment, determined to make a modern life for herself.
CROSSING DELANCEY oscillates between these two locations as we watch Izzy struggling to maintain her Uptown lifestyle while being lured back to the “old neighbourhood” charmed by the suitor her wily Bubbie has picked out for her.
Should Izzy pursue the man of her dreams who is a narcissistic writer or should she take another look at Sam, the pickle man and surrender to an authentic life drawing strength from its old roots?